‘Gupt Rog’ of modern day marketers

First published here

Circa 1994, as teen-aged engineering students we used an old railway foot over bridge to cross over to a study center in Dadar West. On this bridge, we encountered a decrepit old man, slyly pushing a small card into passerby’s hands. His shifty eyes would seek out young and middle aged men to hand out these cards. To our great consternation, he excluded curious youngsters like us and so were women, children and doddering old men. When we extended our hands for a card, the man simply growled and silently refused us one. After many frustrating days, we finally found a carelessly strewn crumpled card at the foot of the bridge. The card carried an advertisement for a doctor’s clinic who, cryptically, specialized in curing men of ‘gupt rog’. In those pre internet days it took conversations with the more worldly wise amongst us to figure out that gupt rog was a euphemism used to describe a wide variety of unmentionable diseases and discussions on its causes were of course of the salacious kind.

With changing social mores, education and the internet, many of the physical gupt rog afflicting people are no longer gupt or unmentionables, but a different kind of gupt rog – unmentionables – ails many of us marketers. And this rog typically reaches its peak around this time of the year.

With the onset of a brand new year, listicles and articles referring to ‘the hottest new trends for 2019’ or ‘Top 10 trends that will change marketing forever in 2019’ inundate us. Wild predictions and future crystal ball gazing has never been new, but social media and a surfeit of online platforms make broadcasting these easier than ever before. Chasing vanity metrics or the hottest tech fad listed in such lists is probably a gupt rog that ails many and may be the new unmentionables in marketing echo chambers.

The vanity metric unmentionable. Many digital publishers armed with case studies claim massive performance improvements, a typical headline you may have encountered would read – 200% improvement in performance. However, when you deep-dive, you may find it referring to CTRs improving from 0.3% to 0.6%. Mathematically, of course, this is indeed a 200% improvement, but zero-point-6-percentage merely means six in one thousand clicked on the banner (a massive increase versus three in one thousand, right?). And that’s only clicks and when you chase it down with variables like view ability, page views, visits, bounce rates, form fill rates, actual purchase and other realities, the funnel narrows to a straw. Don’t mistake me, am not dissing CTRs altogether, it is an important operational measure to track performance of media dollars, but overstating its importance and not looking at business results, is missing the woods for the trees and falling for vanity metrics like 200% improvement is a gupt rog. Referring back to story of the old man on the bridge, with his targeted approach (excluding women, children and old men), wonder what his comparable conversions may have been?


(Image courtesy : leanKit)

The block-chain unmentionable. Block-chain, in many cases is a solution in desperate search of a problem. Of course, I am not undermining its proven applications and potential opportunities; the real issue is with an approach many take concerning block-chain, of wanting a block-chain solution for something that may even not warrant one. Wanting to hop on a technology without getting really behind its import is another gupt rog afflicting many.

The Purpose unmentionable. Societal branding and its ilk are not new concepts, Kotler wrote about it years ago in his textbook. Regretfully, when many agencies and marketers fail to find a differentiator or a powerful consumer insight, they start hunting down a “purpose”. If the ‘purpose’ is core to the brand, then of course it aids brand-building efforts, but supporting an unrelated new purpose is definitely a gupt rog. Remaining true to what your brand stands for is a brand management truism, driving business results and building the brand is the raison d’etre of marketers.

The content unmentionable. When did advertising become branded content? Almost everything now seems to be termed – content, whatever happened to good ol’ fashioned advertising. Even Karan Johar makes his films to sell tickets, but when brands make a magnum opus without a business or brand goal, cringe on hearing the word ‘advertising’, that definitely qualifies as a gupt rog.

As marketers we earn our bread by finding customers to buy the thingamajig the company makes or has to sell and marketing needs to find more customers (new and old) or get them to pay more or get them to buy more or more often. We should endeavor to make this task simple because complicating it needlessly is definitely a gupt rog.

Heck, now even this article, with its own little list of unmentionables reads like one of the year-end articles I warned you to stay away from. Anyways, here’s wishing you a gupt rog-free healthy and happy new year.